2012 was a disappointing year for wages. If we look at Average Weekly Earnings for regular pay, in October 2011 this stood at £438; by October 2012, it had reached £443. The improvement for total pay was no better: from £465 to £471. In no month did the annual rate of increase exceed 2.1 per cent – during a year when the Retail Price Index never slipped below 2.6 per cent.
Average Weekly Earnings increases reflect the changing composition of the workforce, as well as factors like cost-of-living increases and salary increments. But if we look at what has been happening to pay deals, the picture is still quite depressing. The latest data from Incomes Data Services shows that the median settlement for 2012 as a whole was just 2.5 per cent and the Labour Research Department’s Payline database recorded that the median annual increase on lowest basic rates in the three months to November was 2.1 per cent.
Last summer, the CBI began to claim that pay freezes are “the new normal” and that increases are only going to be awarded based on productivity, regardless of inflation. (Duncan is well worth reading on the dire consequences for the economy of falling real pay.)
Is this correct? What can unions do to win real terms pay increases for their members? This is the focus of this year’s TUC-IDS Pay Bargaining Forum at Congress House on 6 March. Speakers from IDS, the TUC and nine different unions will address the different dimensions of this problem, with plenty of time for questions from delegates. Incomes Data Services are organising registration for this event through a dedicated website – book now to avoid disappointment!